FDA staff backs Johnson & Johnson vaccine, feds may approve higher storage temperatures for Pfizer vaccine

Photo (c) Andriy Onufriyenko - Getty Images

CVS is adding six more states to its vaccination network

Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 28,265,193 (28,194,840)

Total U.S. deaths: 502,856 (500,617)

Total global cases: 112,282,725 (111,878,487)

Total global deaths: 2,488,895 (2,478,131)

FDA staff backs Johnson & Johnson vaccine

More coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines could soon be on the way. In a report released today, the staff of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assigned to review Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine candidate recommends that it be granted emergency approval for use.

The report was submitted to the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, which meets Friday to review the data and decide whether to grant the vaccine emergency use authorization (EUA).

If approval is granted, Johnson & Johnson said it has millions of doses that can be immediately distributed, supplementing the vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna. It holds an advantage since it requires only a single shot.

NYT: FDA will approve lower temperatures for vaccine storage

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration is reportedly poised to approve a request from Pfizer and BioNTech to allow the companies to store their COVID-19 vaccine at higher standard freezer temperatures.

The New York Times reports that the agency is preparing to grant the request to resolve logistical issues and make distribution easier. The current ultra-low temperatures required to store the vaccine prevent some clinics, which lack such storage facilities, from using the vaccine in large quantities.

The companies last week petitioned the FDA to ease requirements for their COVID-19 vaccine. With the change, the vaccine can be stored in most pharmacy freezers. 

CVS adds states to its vaccine network

CVS says it has added Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to the list of states where some of its retail pharmacies will offer COVID-19 vaccinations to eligible people. It began the program two weeks ago in 11 states.

In some of the early states, the appointments filled up within hours of the launch. CVS says appointments for the latest allocation of approximately 570,000 doses will start to become available for booking today, with shots beginning February 25.

"Feedback on every aspect of the vaccination process has been incredibly positive, from the digital experience to interacting with our team of health care professionals," said Karen S. Lynch, CEO of CVS Health. 

House vote on $1.9 trillion stimulus bill could come Friday

House Democrats say they are planning to bring the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill to the House floor on Friday for a vote. Democrats, who control the chamber, say the measure will be approved.

“The American people strongly support this bill, and we are moving swiftly to see it enacted into law,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a tweet.

Senate Democrats say they hope to be able to pass the measure before March 14, when extended unemployment benefits expire. Republicans have questioned the size of the spending bill, noting that it contains provisions not directly related to the pandemic.

Is the worst behind us?

Despite the fact that the U.S. COVID-19 death toll just exceeded 500,000, there is growing optimism that the worst may be behind us.

New cases have plunged in recent weeks. This week, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines reported that bookings for the first quarter had risen sharply, mostly for passengers who were 65 and older who had been vaccinated.

New York magazine offers nine reasons the worst may be over, noting new cases continue to drop, the vaccine appears to work really well, and seasonality may be working against the virus.

Around the nation

  • Illinois: The state government is increasing its food assistance to families that were hard-hit economically by the pandemic. Within days, the Illinois Department of Human Services will mail out P-EBT cards to help families who qualify purchase breakfast and lunch for their kids.

  • New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced that movie theaters in New York City will be allowed to reopen next month. They have remained closed even as some other public venues, such as restaurants, have been allowed to reopen on a limited basis.

  • Nevada: Motorists in the state have filed 10 class-action lawsuits against car insurance companies, claiming they should have lowered rates more during the pandemic. “With fewer people driving fewer miles, there are fewer automobile accidents and, therefore, fewer automobile insurance claims,” the complaint states.

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